I know, I know….as a Natural haired woman I should be promoting just how professional our Natural locks can and are. I think you know me well enough by now to understand I try to be honest and fair. The only way to be honest about Natural hair and professionalism is to mention how hard it was ‘back in the day’.
Now, back in the day isn’t the say time frame for everybody. Back in the day for me was the late 90’s. I was living in New Orleans and my perception of Natural hair was wearing braids. Wearing my hair as I wear it today wasn’t even a concept yet. Remember, I dealt with humidity and living in a humid climate made having a relaxer mandatory to most of us.
When I finally experimented with braids, I saw my hair grow like a weed. Needless to say, according to Sabrina my hair only grew without chemicals but how can I achieve that? Hot humid ass Gulf Coast without relaxers meant braids for me but I was gonna be smart about it. I would only wear them when I wasn’t looking for a job.
I thought I was slick. I would go back to my relaxer and wear the societal norm when out job seeking. After I got the job I would wear my box braids and be laughing all the way up the corporate ladder. (That was when I actually wanted to go that route) Some would look at me weird while others complimented me and still OTHERS thought I was wearing Dreadlocks. Remember, this was the late 90’s in New Orleans. It ain’t the fashion capital of the country. What might have been the current ‘it’ hairstyle trickled down from New York, and across from Cali at a rather snail’s pace.
I was flat out told by many when I was wearing my braids and found myself unemployed that I would have to take those ‘things’ (yes, those are the words some family members and friends chose) out of my hair before I went looking. I was offended by the term used to describe my braids but not the advice. It was a well known fact that I wasn’t going to make it in Corporate America with braids in my hair back then. Here are and were some serious No No’s if you wanted to work somewhere other than some one’s kitchen:
Tattoos in visible places
Using slang during interviews
Outlandish nail polish with extremely long nails
Sorry, but that was our truth and although some of those items have been stripped away from that list over the years…some haven’t. Actually, I bet only ethnic hairstyles may have been removed from the list and the others have been TOLD to us they are not considerations for losing a job opportunity but if you are being interviewed by Barbie or Ken you will not get hired with those attributes.
I bought into the fabrication of ethic or Natural hair as not being professional as well but I was younger and it was a different time. How many celebrities did you see sporting braids or Naturals? How many women on the street did one actually see with Natural hair? Yea, it just wasn’t as popular as it is now. No, I’m not a follower but I did buy into straight hair as beautiful. Like I said…I was young.
So, here I am much wiser and older but seeing this whole Corporate America look for Black women BS as just BS. I did what I thought I had to do to become gainfully employed and I ain’t gonna hate on anyone else for doing what they feel they need to do to achieve that as well. We’re all walking down different paths in different shoes with different experiences that brought us along our way. Who the hell am I to judge?
So, I just wanted to share my experience on Natural hair and professionalism. It’s limited I know, but aren’t all of our experiences? I admire and envy the young girlies out here doing their thing while rocking their Natural hair but they need to know we’ve helped them along the way by breaking down some “Only White Is Beautiful” doors that helped them be a comfortable with themselves as they are.
I happy to have helped even though I didn’t have the slightest clue that’s what I was doing. My determination to have my job and be who I wanted to be had to done strategically so that others can do it freely. We’re all just wanting to be ourselves and what the heck is really wrong with that? Not a damn thing..